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March 17, 2017

Ethan Lizak

Darian Cruz

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We will begin here with the first finalist at 125 of the NCAA Tournament Wrestling Championships, Ethan Lizak.

ETHAN LIZAK: I knew it was going to be a tough match going in. We were up from the finals back in January, so he ended up starting off the match winning at takedowns. So I knew going into this match I had to be ready to go off my feet right away, and that's exactly what I did. Got the first takedown and then second period I knew if I got the other takedown the second period that would seal the deal and I could ride my way out.

Q. Ethan, you've been doing real well on top throughout the whole tournament. Talk about how important that is to your game and what you do to be able to get these kids where they can't get up and you're in control of those positions?
ETHAN LIZAK: Basically it's huge advantage because every time I get a takedown, I know I can ride 'em out if not get some back points with it, so pretty much if I get a couple takedowns every match I can pretty much seal the deal. I've been -- especially when I was in elementary school, me and my dad worked on top wrestling alot in the basement because we knew a lot of guys, their weakness was bottom. So if you can use that to your advantage you can come up big in a lot of matches.

Q. Could you describe the past year the way it started? You were suspended and for it to end like this?
ETHAN LIZAK: Yeah, I was just really sad about what happened this past, like, year and I knew I had to make up for it big-time. So, this summer, I got a job working landscaping. Was up at 6 shoveling rocks, doing a lot of stuff and that was basically my lift for the day. After that, I'd go for a run, 5 to 10 miles every day. I think that's helped a lot this year. Especially working with Zach Sanders. He's helping me a lot especially on my feet wrestling. I think it's been showing I've been getting more takedowns in the Big Ten and in this tournament.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. Ethan, you've always been known as a tough rider on top. But you separated yourself here in the college ranks. What's been the difference for you scoring points in every position especially from the top position?
ETHAN LIZAK: I think in high school and my first year here I was mostly concerned about riding the guy and not really looking for back points.

This past year that I redshirted. I worked on that a lot and I worked on using how guys try and work and get out from bottom, using that as a counter to help me get back points off of it.

Q. Can you talk about the fact that you are a finalist? Minnesota is going through a major transition. Could you be the new poster boy if you can win tomorrow night to start things off in a better image, so to speak?
ETHAN LIZAK: I hope so, but I think it's mostly got to be a team effort on this one. We have a lot of great guys around my weight McKee, Thorn and new guys coming in. Gable Steveson just committed today, so we will have a lot of tough guys on our team. So I think that will help transitioning from last year.

Q. You've come a long way to St. Louis to wrestle a kid from right down the road. How great will an All-District 11 National Final? We don't think that's happened before. How is it going to be wrestling a kid that you've known for a long time?
ETHAN LIZAK: It's going to be a VEWL Finals. I wrestled him in elementary school like five times. He won most of the time, but it will be nice wrestling him just right down the road, just like club practices in the day.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Ethan.

We are joined by 125-pound finalist, Darian Cruz from Lehigh.

DARIAN CRUZ: It was awesome, not a lot to say about it. I'm super excited to be here, super happy and thankful for this opportunity to people here and at Lehigh and excited to answer your questions.

Q. Darian, what were you able to do to shut down Gilman?
DARIAN CRUZ: Honestly, that first challenge that went on, come back to my coaches corner, and I said to him, he's want as strong as I thought he was. He bullied a lot of people. So when I got out there and tied it up with him, I don't know if I'm strong or he's not that particularly strong to me, but that aspect helped me out mentally. I stayed to my ties and I fought in the tie and was patient and I think that helped out a lot.

He's strong, I would say, and he waits for you to make a bad move and then he counters and scores. I tied up with him, as strong as I could, I stayed patient and chose my shot selection. I realized he was super duper sweaty, really early. Which is kind of rare at the 125 weight class. We get sweaty, but he was super slippery, and that's what I used in the takedown. I knew I couldn't grab anything, so I had to get him leaning one direction and fire off that shot and get him from behind. I knew I had to get him leaning one way so I could beat him around the corner.

Q. Did you have a history with Gilman?
DARIAN CRUZ: One time.

Q. How did this match differ from the first time?
DARIAN CRUZ: You know, I wrestled him my freshman year, and I was winning actually that one. I did what Zeke did two years ago. I hit him with a sweep to a cradle on the edge of the mat and got a takedown. But then he ended up beating me. He was 5-3. Okay, 6-2. I was down by one. It was a good match. He blew it open at the end when he won with the takedown. (Away from mic.) One of the top guys that I got to wrestle so that's as far as the history goes.

Q. You came a long way to wrestle a kid from right down the road. What's it going to be like tomorrow night, an All-District 11 National Final?
DARIAN CRUZ: We have wrestled each other since we were peanuts in the wrestling league and K-6 and I actually beat him up when we were little. We were both tiny kids as you can imagine. We got to college and didn't really see each other until this year. Actually he kinda beat me up on the mat. He got really tall and I didn't.

Q. (No microphone.)
DARIAN CRUZ: I'm excited. Excited to be in the finals. Super pumped.

Q. Darian, both your takedowns came after regulation. Did he let up?
DARIAN CRUZ: I don't know. He's really, really tough and he was looking at -- he waits for kids to let up. So I think he thought I was letting up and could fire off a shot. I think he saw his opportunity and tried to take it and I'm -- my counters are -- I've been working on them all year and my short offense and that's what I used and he played into my hands. I wouldn't say he let up. I think he just tried to do what we were all trying to do, trying to score.

Q. How crucial is this for you in your career? You fell short last year. You not only earned All-American Honors, but you get into the national finals. How big is this for you in your career?
DARIAN CRUZ: It's super exciting. The fact that, like you said, I came up short last year. Coming into this tournament I didn't take it too heavy to heart. I let it weigh on me after season and in preparation for this season, as soon as I made it to the semis, I wasn't satisfied. I told my coaches before I went to the tournament that I wasn't going to be satisfied with third, no matter how the season went out.

I felt like I wrestled a tough season, felt like a beat a lot of kids, but I wanted to win a national title. My coaches have been telling me that since my freshman year. I wanted to believe in myself and that's something they preach. I'm excited to wrestle and compete and go out and have fun. That's what it's all about.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Darian.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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